24 December 2012

Tanzania: Customers Prefer Slipway to Mwenge for Handicraft

TRADERS at the Makonde Handicraft Village in Dar es Salaam are losing business to those at the Slipway, on the Masaki Peninsula.

Artistes and sales persons spoken to, over the last few days told the 'Daily News' this loss of business at the Village, which is situated along the Sam Nujoma Road, in City's Mwenge suburbs, is the result of their dependence on predominantly foreign tourists.

"The bulk of our customers are foreigners, for it seems local people are not interested in buying our handicraft, well at least not from here, Justina Matondane of J.R.M Product, a dealer in handicraft exports, who operates within the Village told the 'Daily News'.

She further explained that this problem of foreign dependency is acerbated, given the seasonal nature of the handicraft business in the country. Generally speaking, she explained, tourists visit the country in large numbers during the winter months in their countries.

This is usually between October and March. However, of late they at the village have noticed that even during these months business there is still low. It is through looking into this that traders there discovered that prospective customers prefer going to the Slipway, which Matondane says they find more suitable for their various needs.

The fact that there are many different artifacts' within a reasonable small walking area makes it ideal for them. Also present within this area are other basic needs that tourists have and an assurance of security. That is why she has been looking for ways in which she could improve her immediate environment and curb some of the negative attitude herself and colleagues, at the Village have been experiencing.

According to her even a number of the young business persons there have moved to the slipway because of there having a wider mixture of products. In her zeal to be creative she has devoted a corner within her shop to running a treatment centre for ailments connected to the spinal cord.

However, this has not got the blessings of all her neighbours. The Chairman of the Tanzania Carvers Association (TCA), which is based there at the Village, Focus Senya, is one of the people, who have been bitterly opposed to Matondane's stand and action.

Senya maintains the shops within the Village should be solely devoted to handicraft works. In this regards he even went further and emphasise they should be used mainly for handling carvings.

However, Matondane holds firmly to her conviction that it is necessary for traders, who own the shops within the Village to change, in line with the times, and build good shops there that will attract people. "We should have a progressive focus that seeks good security, so that even when a customer comes here they feel safe," Matondane said.

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